Being Italian in Melbourne

Some time ago I had to answer a questionnaire and one of the questions was: are you/ do you feel like part of a minority? To this day I find myself going through all the labels that could apply to me. Which defines me as a minority?

Italian from Italy

Am I a minority as a female? As a Caucasian? As a neurotypical person? As a cisgender woman? Am I a minority because I have a higher education? Because I am an only child? Because I don’t like Rick and Morty? For not believing in a God-like entity? For being bullied as a kid?

One thing I know for sure is that I am not a minority when it comes to being Italian in Melbourne.

I always say, jokingly, that everyone is Italian here.

So much that I once had to specify that of course I could speak Italian, and pretty well too! I am very much Italian, I still have breadcrumbs in my pocket - Italian. But then something happens that makes me change my mind completely about Italians in Melbourne.

I was at Sephora, and one of the shop assistants, in a blatant attempt to find a connection to make me drop my shield and buy more stuff, asked where my accent was from, and our dialogue went a bit like this:

"It's from Italy"
"That's great! My parents are Italian! My mum is from Sicily, and my dad from Trieste."
"Wow! So do you speak Italian as well?"
"Nooooo, my parents were born here. But my nonna can!"

I am trying to understand, how can someone say that they're Italian if they were born in Australia, or if they have never visited Italy, couldn't even speak Italian, nor haven't been brought up with the system of religion and culture that Italy seems to be so attached to?

So, can I say I am Australian when I’ll have my citizenship? Look at me! I can even speak English! To be honest, I wouldn't say I’m Australian, because neither my own personal background or my family’s is Australian.

I came to realise not 'everyone' is Italian, with figurative capital I, but there is no denying that many are of Italian descent. Not that it ultimately matters or define who you are any more than being asked if you consider yourself a minority. But in the context of a friendly talk about ethnicity and heritage, being from a specific country has its relevance.

Recently, a wise friend made me notice the difference: being Italian vs being from Italy.

Maybe I wasn't wrong! Maybe it's true that 'everyone is Italian', but not all of them are from Italy!

The two concepts aren't equal, as one literally means that you started off from Italy, whereas the other means there is Italian heritage in your family. Once I realised this, everything made sense! It’s a pity that I still have to deal with people using either to randomly indicate Italian descent. Maybe it’s safer to assume that "everyone" is “Italian”, and please, picture me using air quotes, and move on to more interesting topics.

Image: via

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